TRENTON – In the final vote on a monumental pension and benefit reform, a cadre of Democrats in the Assembly and the entire Republican caucus approved the far-reaching measure, 46-32. A majority of the Democrats in the Assembly voted against the measure.
Only 14 of 46 members in the majority voted in favor of the bill that was created by state Sen. Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Gov. Chris Christie.
Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-6), sponsor of the bill, said, “Inaction is not an option.” He said both political parties have “kicked the can down the road” for far too long and now is the time to address the crisis.
“New Jersey’s economic reality is a bleak one. We cannot ignore it,” he said. “Our failure over the last number of years and decades… has now taken another victim.” He told the public employees, “This is not your fault. But it rests with the people in this room.”
Assemblyman Peter Biondi was not present, and Assemblywoman Caridad Rodriguez has vacated her seat in the Assembly. The only Democratic votes came from Essex County and South Jersey.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who is also the Democratic state chairman, said by approving the legislation, the assembly was simply passing the buck on the state’s fiscal woes.
“While I understand the magnitude of the problem we are facing, as Chairman of the Democratic State Committee I cannot in good conscience support the proposed solution which changes the rules in the middle of the game for working families,” said Wisniewski. “Had these bills been split, I would have supported much needed pension reforms to ensure the state lives up to its funding responsibilities. Unfortunately, this combined legislation does not accomplish what its sponsor’s claim with regard to addressing the true problem of exploding costs for healthcare.”
The Democrats are making Gov. Chris Christie wait to put the final scrawled signature on the much-ballyhooed reform bill.
Christie planned to wait around the Statehouse tonight to sign the bill immediately upon its passage. But since Democrats in the Assembly have amended the repeal-and-replace partner bill to remove an out-of-state medical care provision, the Senate has to pass the amended companion bill on Monday.
Opponents of the bill have also had language included in the legislation to ensure that the governor cannot sign one bill without the other.
Michael Drewniak, spokesman for Christie, said the governor is planning a bill signing for the reform – one of the last major initiatives in Christie’s toolkit – on Monday.
A vote tally is attached.